Growing a bumper crop of pumpkin

Music 24/09/2009

I love pumpkin.  In fact I cook pumpkin regularly, as it such a versatile food.  I adore the texture of roasted vege, and regularly make a good Kiwi roast.  Roasted pumpkin is just delicious, crispy on the outside and gooey in the centre.  It is amazing when par boiled then roasted, and added to risotto or risoni.  Pumpkin is incredible in gnocchi, so sweet and flavoursome.  I have a fetish for Shepard’s pie, and add mashed kumara and pumpkin to the topping, as plain potato just doesn’t cut it for me.  I make a mouth watering pumpkin and feta quiche, not to mention my chicken, pumpkin, camembert and cranberry homemade pizzas!  Pumpkin is a treat cooked my mother’s simple way- cut and lightly doused in sweet chilli sauce, then cooked in the microwave for 3 minutes!  My Dad makes a legendary pumpkin soup! Diced pumpkin, fried in butter with chopped bacon and carrot.  When it is browned, add water and 1tbl of brown sugar and let it boil! Incredible!

Coincidentally, this versatile vegetable is relatively easy to grow.  Perfect for a latte-sipping urbanite who may not even know what ‘green fingers’ means!

Seeds should be germinated in September, in the early phase of spring.

The large type of pumpkins do require a large space, as they have running vines and tend to spread out. You can grow them in a random spot where the vine has space to crawl (such as over a fence).  However, for urban gardeners like myself with limited space, the some smaller, bush types, such as ‘Butternut’ and ‘Little Dumpling’, ‘Baby Bear’ and Peak a Boo’ which require less space are perfect for urban backyards.  In fact, some of the smaller types can grown in pots, meaning inner city living will not hinder your organic vegetable growing dreams!

For a great high quality crop, a nutrient rich is essential.  I say this all the time, but just as the body needs nutritious foods to thrive, so plants need nutrient rich soil to feed off.  Add a rich organic soil, and compost to your soil, and dig it in before planting.

When planting your seed in the designated space, dig 4cm deep holes a metre apart, and place 5 or so seeds in the same hole to ensure germination occurs.  When the seedlings begin to germinate, remove all except one.  Keep your pumpkins well watered.  Allow up to 3 pumpkins to grow on each stem, any more will reduce the flavour and quality of your growth.  Your pumpkins should be ready to be harvested when the vine dies, and the fruit stalk is dry and easily snapped.  Handpick your pumpkin from the stem.  The smaller pumpkins will take around 10 weeks to reach full growth ready for eating, but many types will take up to 6 months.  Your harvested pumpkin can be stored for months in a cool, airy cupboard or box, but only if it has no external damage, cuts, bruising or blemishes.  Now, what will you cook for dinner with these beauties!

By Holly Jean Brooker

www.urbanmac.co.nz